Joel Diaz recounts a remarkable experience in Columbus, Ohio when he and a gay friend started being harassed when they were holding hands and chatting while waiting in line at a popular pizza truck. A man in front of them told them to stop doing stuff that indicated that they were gay. This is when things got interesting.
I was a bit startled by his words but I didn’t expect what happened next. Almost every single person in that line made it known to him it was not OK for him to speak to us like that. By happenstance my friend John, who is also gay, was standing in front of him and as he continued his rant about being disgusted by us we both let him know that this was our city too and that we were not about to stand down to his bigoted ideas, especially not in one of the gayest neighborhoods in town. As he continued it was actually the straight people in line who spoke up that were so awesome.
I didn’t expect to see allies so willing to chime in and let this guy know that his hate speech wouldn’t be tolerated. The best part though was as he grew more irate and vocal the guys who work the truck stopped what they were doing and leaned towards the window and told him they would not serve him because he was spewing hate. They said they support everyone in our community and that he should get out of line because they would not be serving him. He begrudgingly got out of line and walked away escorted by a friend who had been hanging back.
As I walked away with my pizza all I could think about was “THAT’S IT!” Every person who spoke up to defend us including the pizza guys representing their business was doing their part to make hate a thing of the past.
Columbus is viewed as a town that demographically and socially is a good representative of America, so much so that manufacturers and advertisers often use it as a test city for new products and promotions, to see how well they might be received nationally. When people in that city start taking action to protect the rights of gay people they don’t even know, then you know that times are changing.